With coronavirus cases continuing to surge in what has quickly become India’s most worrisome hotspot, officials in Indore say they are prepared for an eventuality where they outnumber the beds available. A decision has also been taken to screen “every single resident” in Indore, a city with a population of around 30 lakh, over the next few weeks.
However, senior medical officials said they expect the numbers to stabilise soon, and asserted that a large buffer was still there in terms of beds available.
Positive patients are now being categorised as per symptoms, with the milder cases taken to a COVID Care centre, generally a hotel taken over for the purpose; the ones showing symptoms and moderate cases to hospitals; and severe cases to coronavirus-only hospitals.
As on Tuesday night, Indore accounted for over half of Madhya Pradesh’s cases (411 of 741) as well as deaths (37 of 53). By Thursday, the city’s numbers stood at 844 cases and 47 deaths.
In the first such official remark, Collector Manish Singh Friday said the virus could have been brought to Indore by passengers who arrived in January and February from abroad. Madhya Pradesh has only one international flight, which operates between Dubai and Indore. Dubai flights were cited as a probable source of cases in Indore in the initial days, but it’s the first official comment on the matter.
Singh, who took over as Indore Collector in late March, said about 5,000 to 6,000 passengers who landed in the city around the time were not screened properly. “I was not there, so I don’t know what were the exact instructions,” he said.
Without elaborating, he added that some of those air passengers had attended the ongoing protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act.
Dr Pravin Jadia, Indore Chief Medical and Health Officer, told The Indian Express, “Today, we have 1,200-1,500 beds (for coronavirus patients). Two new centres have been opened, which is an additional 800 beds. We have also arranged for three more COVID Care Centres. This means we have a total capacity of around 2,500 patients.”
Of the 800-plus patients currently, Dr Jadia added, “50 are to be discharged soon”. “After this point, the cycle will see people being discharged as well, so we can begin rotation (of beds).”
He pointed out that the case mortality rate had also started to fall, from 10% earlier to 5%, and the high number of cases was “not a reason to panic”. “These positive cases are from a group whom we had already identified and quarantined. If there are new cases from a new area in these volumes, then it would have been worrying… These results are coming from the backlog cases. We are testing 2,000 people per million, which is the highest in India. We are trying to identify people as much as we can… To emerge positive is not such a bad thing. The main concern, which was our mortality rate, has become less than half.”
About the mammoth city-wide screening exercise, Dr Jadia said, “We have 500 teams doing house-to-house survey, we are planning to form another 500. We have covered one lakh houses and around six lakh people already. We are going to expand first to wards neighbouring those where cases have been found.”
Indore has 167 containment areas with 6.9 lakh people. Of the 4.76 lakh people in these areas screened, 4,647 have been earmarked as high-risk, with 1,548 in home quarantine.
Said Dr Jadia, “There is one doctor for every 10 teams. If anyone complains of symptoms, the doctor scans their temperature, does a check-up and makes recommendations accordingly.”